Friday, March 29, 2013

From a Candy Factory in Iran to the 'Sweet Sixteen' in Indiana:
Arsalan Kazemi’s Mad March through the NCAA

Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi (Bruce Ely / The Oregonian)

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament history was made last week when the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, in their inaugural tournament appearance, became the first ever 15-seed to advance to the third round, joining other underdogs like 13-seed La Salle Explorers and 9-seed Wichita State Shockers in the Sweet Sixteen.

But there’s another team that has not only beaten the odds to advance this far into the tournament, but also boasts a league first of its own – one that demonstrates how sports and politics are so often inextricably interconnected.

The Oregon Ducks, the Pac-10 champion and current number 12-seed challenger to top-ranked (and odds-on favorite to win it all) Louisville, is home to 22-year-old senior Arsalan Kazemi, the first Iranian-born athlete to play NCAA Division I basketball.

A 6-foot-7, 226-pound forward, Kazemi is the son of candy factory owners in the beautiful Iranian city of Esfahan. Falling in love with the game at the age of 9, Kazemi excelled in junior basketball leagues in Iran and eventually came to the United States on his own at the age of 17 to pursue his hardwood dream. After playing a year of high school ball in North Carolina, he accepted a scholarship to Rice University in Houston. A year ago, Kazemi transferred to the University of Oregon for his final college season.

Kazemi’s parents have been unable to visit their son in the United States because of difficulties in obtaining a visa. Kazemi says his mother is still his biggest fan and watches his games online. He speaks with his parents regularly, at least twice a day, via Skype, and says that his decision to leave Iran was a “sacrifice” made for the love of basketball.

“Just the type of young man that he is — quiet, humble, gracious — he’s hard not to like,” Oregon Coach Dana Altman says about Kazemi. “And the unselfish part of it on the basketball floor, everybody can see. And those are qualities that every team needs.”

While he has become an integral and impressive part of the Ducks’ frontline, grabbing a combined 33 rebounds in the team’s two tournament wins so far, Kazemi’s nationality is – unsurprisingly – always a topic of conversation. He seems to have adopted an unofficial role as good will ambassador.

“Obviously a lot of people see the news on the TV,” Kazemi said during a locker room interview a week ago. “I try to be really humble…and show the world who I am, and that I’m coming from Iran. I try to represent my country as best as I can… and show them who we really are.”

Kazemi has drawn small groups of Iranians to Oregon’s road games and says he often receives letters from fellow Iranians calling him an inspiration for their country. Needless to say, he is appreciative of the support he’s received at Oregon and at away games, especially when greeted by fans waving Iranian flags.

But being an Iranian athlete in the United States is not always so easy. According to The New York Times, “When Kazemi first arrived in the United States, landing in Houston as a 17-year-old, he was held at immigration for six hours of questioning. Tired and scared, he was ready to ask to be sent back home to Iran.”

In a recent player profile of Kazemi, Sports on Earth reporter Gwen Knapp writes:
With sad predictability, some hecklers have resorted to the cheapest taunt imaginable when Kazemi turns up in their gym. They call him a terrorist, which he explains this way: “I call it the ‘T’ word, I don’t want to say it.”
He ignores them, as all athletes are taught to do. “They’re saying more about themselves,” Kazemi said. But this sort of baiting stoops to a level that embarrasses universities. The University of Washington noted that a heckling guide for its Dawg Pack student section targeted Kazemi based on his ethnicity and apparently intervened. Adam Jude, the beat writer for The Oregonian, tweeted from Seattle that a Washington spokesman said the issue had “been addressed with students.”
Such discrimination may explain Kazemi’s decision to leave Rice University last year in search of a new school. Kazemi has declined to speak about the subject with the press and Rice’s Athletic Department has strongly denied the allegation.

Still, Kazemi says that most Americans he meets are friendly and seem eager to learn about his native country. “I’m more than happy to tell them what is exactly going on and help them understand,” he told Knapp. “They all think that there is a war going in in Iran, and I tell them there is no war there…Iran is totally safe, and it’s a really nice country.”

Kazemi is completing a sports-management degree at Oregon and also has tentative plans to continue his education and obtain a sociology degree.

“My dad always wanted me to study,” Kazemi told The New York Times. “I’m not sure, but he probably wanted a doctor or engineer out of me, and he still wants me to go to grad school and continue my studying. But I think it’s a time for me to try to go and make some money from basketball.”

“When I went to Rice, I was the first Iranian to get a Division I scholarship,” he told Knapp, “and then here I was the first Iranian to win a Pac-12 championship, and now I’m the first Iranian to go to the Sweet 16. And I hope it just goes from there.”

In 2010, Iranian-American guard Ali Farokhmanesh hit a game-winning 3-pointer against top-seeded Kansas to take the University of Northern Iowa to the Sweet Sixteen. He now plays pro ball in Austria.

If Kazemi were to make it to the NBA, he’d be the second Iranian in the league. Hamed Haddadi, now a center with the Phoenix Suns, blazed that trail back in 2008. Kazemi says the two are friends.

Oregon plays number one seed Louisville Friday night in Indianapolis.

Go Fighting Ordaks!


Originally posted at Muftah.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Khamenei's Nowruz Speech and the "Threat" That Wasn't

On Thursday, March 21, 2013, ABC News ran an alarming headline: "Iran's Khamenei Threatens to 'Annihilate' Tel Aviv."

The article, written by reporter Molly Hunter, leads with the claim that the Iranian leader has "issued a fiery threat to the coastal [Israeli] cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa," before actually quoting Khamenei in context:
"At times the officials of the Zionist regime (Israel) threaten to launch a military invasion," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a televised speech marking the Persian New Year, Nowruz.
"But they themselves know that if they make the slightest mistake the Islamic Republic will annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground," he said.
Operative word: "if."

Other news outlets were a bit more forthcoming in their banners about the nature of Khamenei's comments, made during his annual Nowruz address in the city of Mashhad. Reuters' report on the speech proliferated quickly; its headline, "Iran will destroy Israeli cities if attacked: Khamenei," alternative renderings such as "Iran threatens to destroy Tel Aviv, Haifa if Israel attacks," can be found everywhere from NBC News to Fox News to the Jerusalem Post.

By contrast, the wire service UPI and a right-wing Israeli settler outlet followed the ABC lead by dropping the conditional clause from their headlines.

While issuing such a declaration is certainly forceful and brash, let alone exaggerated, it is clearly made as a deterrent rather than an aggressive and unprovoked threat. Indeed, Iran has long stated that it will never initiate a military conflict and maintains a national security doctrine of self-defense and retaliation, policies consistently affirmed by U.S. intelligence assessments.

But such headlines, when deliberately devoid of context, send a strong message of Iranian bellicosity and increase the erroneous perception that Iran is threatening Israel with attack, instead of the other way around. They are merely an extension of the "wipe Israel off the map" shibboleth that, even after more than seven years, remains ubiquitous in mainstream discourse despite its repeated debunking.

In fact, declarations like this are nothing new. For instance, back in June 2008, after Israel conducted a series of war games and then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz told the press, "If Iran continues its program to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it," Iranian officials replied much as Khamenei has to more recent threats. At the time, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari stated, "If the enemy makes a strategic mistake [by attacking Iran], the Revolutionary Guards are fully prepared to give a severe answer to the enemy."

In February 2010, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ahani said in an interview, "Iran certainly will not start a war. But if we are attacked, we will respond strongly."

In August 2011, Iranian President Ahmadinejad responded to the possibility of an American or Israeli strike by stating that "we will defend ourselves within our capabilities" and that, in the event of such an attack, Iran would "give them a decisive response."

Later that year, in an address to military cadets, Khamenei said that Iran would "respond to any aggression and even to any threats powerfully" with "strong slaps and iron fists."

Khamenei also warned last June that, were Israel to "take any wrong step, any inappropriate move, it will fall on their heads like lightning."

At the same time, Iran's Brigadier General Yahya Rahim-Safavi stated that Iran would respond in kind were Israel or the United States launch an attack. "There is no spot in Israel that does not fall within the range of the Iranian missiles," he said, adding that U.S. military bases in the region would also be potential targets. Because "U.S. military forces in the region are highly vulnerable," he said, Iran is in a position to "inflict damage on them at the same level as they do."

Echoing these statements, in September 2012, General Jafari said that "nothing will remain of Israel," should it attack Iran. "Given Israel's small land area and its vulnerability to a massive volume of Iran's missiles, I don't think any spot in Israel will remain safe," he claimed, noting also that "U.S. military bases sprawled around Iran are considered a big vulnerability."

Following more threats by Israel last autumn, notably Netanyahu's embarrassing cartoon bomb display at the United Nations, the Iranian mission to the world body issued a statement insisting, "The Islamic Republic of Iran is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack." Meanwhile, the Iranian press quoted General Farzad Esmaili, head of Iran’s air and ballistic missile units, saying, "If a military attack is launched against our nuclear installations, we promise that the enemies will not escape alive."

Soon thereafter, Ahmadinejad said, "Iranians have and will never start any war but they have always been good defenders and have always defended their territories in a memorable and historical form," adding that "Iran's response to any aggression will be crushing."

A week before Khamenei's own Nowruz speech this year, Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri declared, "Our commanders have received authorization to immediately respond to any hostile action by the enemy." He added, "We too have all our options on the table."

This is not news, nor is it particularly alarming. In fact, it is unsurprising that a sovereign nation, when faced with the repeated threat of attack by two of the world's most aggressive nuclear powers, would voice its intention to respond in kind were an assault on its 70 million people to occur.

Spinning statements of self-defense and retaliation to foreign military aggression as threats themselves is par for the course when it comes to Iran and the media. Just last month, when President Ahmadinejad explicitly denied any Iranian intention to launch an attack on Israel, noting Iran's potential "reaction to such a strike, as well as Iran's defensive capabilities," UPI ran a story with the headline, "Ahmadinejad - Iran ready to destroy Israel." Perhaps this is to be expected, though, from a so-called "journalistic" organization that consistently publishes MEK propaganda and bizarre anti-Iranian rants.

Most importantly, however, by distorting Khamenei's recent comments, the mainstream media wound up demonstrating their own fealty to sensational alarmism while either overlooking or burying the more illuminating content of the speech itself.

Of all places, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the U.S. government's Cold War propaganda arm and overseas version of Voice of America, avoided much of the decontextualized hysteria found in other reports. Journalist Golnaz Esfandiari, while mentioning Khamenei's warning about Tel Aviv and Haifa in the sixteenth paragraph of her article, led instead with the news that the Iranian leader noted in his speech that "he's not opposed to direct talks with Washington."

Coming in advance of more rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 - the five nuclear-armed permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany - Khamenei's comments regarding potential bilateral talks with the United States were well in line with what he has said on the subject in the past.

"High- and middle-ranking officials of America repeatedly say that alongside the P5+1 talks regarding the nuclear issue, America and the Islamic Republic should hold one-on-one negotiations over the issue," Khamenei said in Mashhad. He continued, not dismissing such overtures but voicing his skepticism:
I am not optimistic about such negotiations. Why? Because our past experiences show that in the logic of the American gentlemen, negotiation does not mean sitting down together to try to reach a rational solution. This is not what they mean by negotiation. What they mean is that we should sit down together and talk so that Iran accepts their views. The goal has been announced in advance: Iran must accept their view. For this reason, we have always announced that this is not negotiation. This is imposition and Iran will not give in to imposition. I am not optimistic about these statements, but I am not opposed either.
Khamenei's understanding of American duplicity and bullying is well-founded. Diplomacy, when it comes to American dealings with the Islamic Republic, consistently takes the form of intimidation, ultimatums, and threats, while negotiations is merely a disingenuous term for take-it-or-leave-it demands. Former IAEA Director-General Mohammad ElBaradei said as much in May 2010, when the United States reneged on a proposal to Iran it had explicitly endorsed:
We know in negotiations that you will not get everything before the start of the negotiations. In fact, that insistence to get everything before you start negotiating, the result of that was six years of wasted time on resolving the Iranian issue. We wasted six years in the past because the Western approach was that Iran should give everything before the start of the negotiation.
In his recent Nowruz address, Khamenei was clear about how to resolve the three decade impasse between the United States and Iran. "If the Americans sincerely want to reach a solution, I will give them the solution," he said. "The solution is that the Americans should stop being hostile towards the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation. Offers of negotiation are not a rational and reasonable solution...[T]he rational solution is that they should rectify their policies. They should rectify the way they act and they should stop being hostile towards the Iranian nation."

Of course, such a change in U.S. policy - the cessation of threats and the normalization of relations - is a far greater threat to Israeli hegemony than any hypothetical counterattack.



April 18, 2013 - Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a military ceremony, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi repeated the Iranian position that any Israeli attack would be met with a devastating military response, while also dismissing the possibility of such an attack as mere bluster.

"The constant threats by the Zionist regime against Iran are so worthless and they cannot do anything against our nation because they know that any measure will lead them to full annihilation," Vahidi said, adding, "We don't think that the Zionist regime will take such an unwise action to commit suicide."

Vahidi's comments came on the heels of recent statements by both IDF chief Benny Gantz and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu, claiming that Israel was prepared to strike Iran if the decision was made to do so.

Iran has routinely dismissed such threats as nothing more than bellicose posturing.



April 24, 2013 - In yet more comments on the same subject, Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said today that American and Israeli "threats have no value and at the same time, show their aggressive nature, and reveal their deceitful and misleading claims," adding that any Israeli strike on Iran would be the regime's "last mistake."

Vahidi's latest statement follows U.S. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel's recent visit to Israel, during which he cemented a massive arms deal that he said should send a "very clear signal" to Iran. This past weekend, Hagel claimed that the United States and Israel see "exactly the same" threat from Iran and followed up such rhetoric the next day alongside his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya'alon by declaring, "All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran."

Despite the admission of U.S. Director of National Intelligence that sanctions on Iran have not affected nuclear policy shifts in Iran (which include the continuing, non-militarized civilian nature of its nuclear program), Hagel insisted, "The sanctions on Iran are as potent and deep and wide a set of international sanctions that we have ever seen on any country. And those will continue to increase."

As for the potency of sanctions, Hagel is praising the negative impact such collective punishment is having on lives and livelihoods of the people of Iran, while promising more.

"Whether it leads to an outcome that we desire remains to be seen...and as I said, the military option is always an option," Hagel reiterated.

But remember, we're still supposed to believe Iranian officials are the ones issuing bellicose threats apropos of nothing.

With this in mind, take note of statements made by Israeli President Shimon Peres during a joint media event with Hagel on April 22.

In the context of alleging, as he often does, that Iran is somehow a "threat to Israel, Peres stated, "By the way, you know [we] have nothing against the Iranian people...Iran doesn't have a single enemy. Nobody threatened Iran. Why did their leaders decide to become a threat to others?"

Wait, what? "Nobody threatened Iran?"

Apparently, Peres is unaware of the decades of military threats waged against Iran. Back in November 2011, Peres himself made the bogus claim that "Iran is getting closer to having nuclear weapons" and that "[i]ntelligence services of all countries understand that time is running out and they are warning their leaders." He added at the time:
In the time that remains, we must urge the other nations of the world to act, and tell them that it is time to stand behind the promise that was made to us, to fulfill their responsibility, whether that means serious sanctions or whether it means a military operation.
In fact, no intelligence agencies claim that Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon as the international consensus (including that of Israel itself) has long been that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. Threatening an unprovoked attack on Iran is unquestionably a violation of the United Nations Charter.

Peres' absurd formulation is nothing new. Back in 2006, for example, Peres - who was instrumental in Israel's own clandestine development of nuclear weapons - said that "Israel is not threatening Iran, Iran is threatening Israel." Just last month, in a lie-filled speech before the European Parliament, Peres stated, "Nobody threatens Iran. Iran threatens others," in addition to spouting a pathetic litany of propaganda talking points with no basis in fact, including claiming Iran has an "imperial appetite," has "call[ed] for another Holocaust," and that Iranian leaders "are aiming to build a nuclear weapon and they deny it." (Incredibly, Peres - the president of Israel - also lambasted the Iranian government for "violating the charter of the United Nations which condemns the violation of human rights and aggression against other nations.")

In his recent comments with Chuck Hagel, Peres trod this same ground. "Israelis understand that Iran is not just a threat to Israel," he whined, "It's really a threat to the peace in the world, for no reason whatsoever. The world doesn't threaten Iran."

Actually, Peres is correct about one thing. "The world" - namely the 120 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement in addition to China, Russia and many others - "doesn't threaten Iran."

But the countries that both Peres himself and his guest Chuck Hagel represent certainly do.



April 26, 2013 - Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Majid Bokaei has echoed the sentiments of his boss, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, according to a report from PressTV.

Brigadier General Majid Bokaei called recent threats made by American and Israeli officials "psychological warfare" and "ranting," and said, "If enemies make a mistake we will answer their threats in the battlefield."

He similarly dismissed the potential of any Israeli attack on Iran, citing "major economic, political and geopolitical problems" facing Israel.



January 24, 2014 - In response to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding a potential military strike on Iran, Brigadier General Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri - Iran's deputy chief of staff - said in an interview that, in the event of an attack, American interests in the region would be "completely destroyed."

Speaking to Al Arabiya this week, Kerry defended the interim international deal over Iran's nuclear program and the alleviating of some sanctions, but declared that if Iran were to back out of its commitments, "the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do."

Such rhetoric is par for the course for American officials focused on diplomacy, but still eager to appear bellicose and aggressive to certain influential communities and audiences.

Last month, in a conversation at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, a pro-Israel think tank in Washington, DC, President Barack Obama said much of the same. "What I've consistently said is even as I don't take any options off the table," Obama told Haim Saban, the organization's Israel-obsessed billionaire benefactor, "what we do have to test is the possibility that we can resolve this issue diplomatically."

The president repeated this a number of times during the conversation. "The best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that," he said, adding later that "when the President of the United States says that he doesn't take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously."

Following Obama's own appearance, Secretary Kerry also addressed the Saban conference in December. He assured the attendees that "as we negotiate, we will continue to be perfectly clear that, for Iran, the price of noncompliance, of failing to satisfy international concerns about the nuclear program, will be that we immediately ratchet up new sanctions, along with whatever further steps are needed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, including – as President Obama just made clear – a military option, if that were necessary."

In his own recent comments, General Jazayeri emphasized that the U.S. government is well aware that "the military option against Iran is not practical."

Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Iran's Majlis, reacted to Kerry's new comments by saying, "These statements are indicative of the U.S. double standards and will bring about nothing but tarnishing the US image," adding, "Definitely, we also announce that if the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) commit the least breach of the Geneva agreement, we will also have all the options on our table."

"Under pressures by the Zionist lobby, the U.S. adopts dual policies; on the one hand, they talk about agreement and positive relations with Iran, but on the other hand, they use an intimidating tone," Hosseini said.



March 4, 2014 - In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, President Barack Obama insisted that the Iranian leadership takes his threat that "all options are on the table" - Washington D.C.-speak for military action - seriously when it comes to bullying Iran over its nuclear program. "I know they take it seriously," he said, elaborating,
We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously. And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.
Obama added that he would prefer to "resolve this issue diplomatically," considering that "[t]here are always consequences to military action that are unpredictable and can spin out of control, and even if perfectly executed carry great costs."

In response, Iranian Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces for Cultural Affairs and Defense Publicity, dismissed Obama's statement as "the joke of the year."

"The low-IQ U.S. president and his country's Secretary of State John Kerry speak of the effectiveness of 'the US options on the table' on Iran while this phrase is mocked at and has become a joke among the Iranian nation, specially the children," Jazayeri said, according to the government-run Fars News Agency.

"Obama's statements about the number of the U.S. troops in the region and the extent of their influence are completely inexpert remarks far from the reality," he declared, "and these statements can be used as the joke of the year." He also warned that, were Iran to be attacked by American forces, Iranian retaliation would be devastating, saying, "If they err, the region will be turned into a hell for them."

Jazayeri also suggested that the American people be more skeptical of official statements made by their politicians regarding Iran, noting that "if they contemplate a little, they will come to realize how false many of their words are."

Also responding to Obama's remarks, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham chided the American president for falling back on tired talking points and bellicose rhetoric.

"One part of the remarks made by the U.S. president is in contradiction to the principles of international law and against the spirit of diplomatic negotiations meant to prevent unconstructive slogans and resorting to threats," she said.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Last Straw:
Britain’s Former Foreign Secretary Regrets One War, Tries to Avoid Another

Jack Straw, MP for Blackburn and former British Foreign Secretary, 2001-2006

Nearly a decade ago, on April 2, 2003, British parliamentarian Jack Straw was steadfast in his support for the recent invasion of Iraq. “Saddam's removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction,” insisted Straw, who was then serving as Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary.

Years later, in testimony before the UK’s Iraq Inquiry, Straw regretted his critical involvement in the decision to go to war. Saying he acted "on the basis of the best evidence available at the time,” Straw spoke of the “profoundly difficult moral and political dilemma" he had been faced with, especially considering his belief that the official U.S. policy of regime change in Iraq to be "improper and unlawful."

The overhyped threat of Saddam’s weapons capabilities - pushed by British intelligence in September 2002 - was, in Straw’s estimation, “an error that has haunted us ever since.”

Such errors, if the recently renewed threats of war emanating from both Washington and Tel Aviv are to be believed, are currently being repeated. This time, however, Jack Straw isn't taking the bait.

In an oped published late last month in The Daily Telegraph, Straw outlined the importance of continued negotiation and diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program and the absurdity of threatening military action.

In clear prose that would never make it into most mainstream American publications, Straw noted the often-ignored history of Western colonial and imperial actions against Iran and clearly laid out Iran’s own position. He explains:
What Iran seeks is twofold. First, it wants its “full rights” under the NPT for civil nuclear power. It can fairly point out that three nuclear weapons states – Israel, India and Pakistan – have always refused to join the NPT, while North Korea, now boasting about its atomic capability, withdrew from the Treaty in 2003. Second, it seeks an end to its international isolation and a recognition (especially by the US) of its regional status.
Straw added, “Normalisation of relations with Iran is also an important prize for the international community,” as Iran could help stabilize regional conflicts from Syria to Afghanistan. He also urged the immediate “reopening of the embassies in Tehran and London” and rightly derided Netanyahu a “belligerent cheerleader for the war party against Iran.”

While expressing his belief that the leadership in Tehran may want the “intellectual capacity for a nuclear weapons system, but will stop short of making that system a reality,” Straw still pointed out that, even if he was wrong, “a nuclear-armed Iran would certainly not be worth a war.”

To be fair, Straw has long opposed military action against Iran. In 2006, he dismissed reports of a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran as “completely nuts,” and said that there was “no smoking gun” to justify any attack on Iran despite the allegations about its nuclear program.

“We can’t be certain about Iran’s intentions and that is therefore not a basis for which anybody would gain authority to go to military action,” he told the BBC.

Six years later, Straw maintains this position. “War is not an option,” he concludes.

Let’s hope that - this time around - he’s right.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Not-So-Imminent Iranian Nuke: A Year Away for a Decade

According to official estimates, the Islamic Republic of Iran is now roughly a year away from acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Well, that is, if it were actually building a nuclear bomb.  Which it's not. 

"Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close," President Barack Obama told an Israeli television station on March 14, 2013.  In order to stop Iran, Obama vowed to "continue to keep all options on the table," a euphemism for engaging in an unprovoked military attack, thus initiating a war of aggression, the "supreme international crime."

Obama's statement came just two days after his own Director of National Intelligence told a Senate committee that the Iranian government had not made a decision to weaponize its legal, safeguarded civilian nuclear energy program.  "We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons," DNI James Clapper said.  Even if it did, he added, Iran wouldn't be able to secretly divert any of its stockpiled and safeguarded enrichment uranium to a weapons program.

The American president failed to make this distinction in his interview, instead saying only that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "dangerous for the world. It would be dangerous for U.S. national security interests."

Repeating his administration's main talking point, Obama told his Israeli interviewer, "What I have also said is that there is a window, not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically and it is in all of our interests."

But this window has already been open for decades and Iran has supposedly been only a year away from a bomb for the past ten years.

In November 2003, then Mossad chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran's nuclear program would be at a "point of no return" within the next year and would then "have the potential to produce 10 nuclear bombs a year." Israeli Defense Minster Shaul Mofaz repeated the one year "point of no return" timeline in early 2005, a claim reinforced by other Israeli officials throughout that year. 

Similar estimates were made in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Oh, and 2009.

In April 2010, Ronald Burgess, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the "general consensus" was that Iran could develop a single nuclear bomb within a year if the leadership decided to do so, despite maintaining that Iran didn't have an active nuclear weapons program.

As the years have passed, this assessment has held fast.

In late January 2011, Aviv Kochavi, director of Israeli Military Intelligence, admitted Iran was not actively working on a nuclear weapon, but claimed it could build one in "a year or two" once "the leader decides to begin enriching at 90 percent."

A year later, in January 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told 60 Minutes, "The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb."

Just few days later, Kochavi told a panel at the Herzliya security conference that "Iran has enough nuclear material for four bombs," adding, "We have conclusive evidence that they are after nuclear weapons. When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year."

Last week, addressing the very same conference, Kochavi was back with a new prediction - actually, it was the same one as before.  He claimed that, in the coming year, the Iranian "leadership would like to find itself in the position of being able to break out to an atomic weapon stage in a short period of time, according to the IDF's intelligence assessments. However, he said that Iran has not yet decided to build the bomb."

Greg Thielmann, a former U.S. intelligence analyst now with the Arms Control Association, recently explained that "calculating such a time line involves a complicated set of likely and unlikely assumptions," telling journalist Laura Rozen, "If Iran decided today to build nuclear weapons, it would require years, not weeks or months, to deploy a credible nuclear arsenal."

Meanwhile, with Obama set to visit Israel this week, Reuters now notes that "Netanyahu has not publicly revised the spring-to-summer 2013 dating for his 'red line'," the stated point at which the Iranian nuclear program advances far enough to automatically trigger an Israeli attack, a threat laid down by the Israeli Prime Minister last September.  "But several Israeli officials privately acknowledged it had been deferred, maybe indefinitely," Reuters adds before quoting an anonymous official: "The red line was never a deadline," he said.

Clearly, when it comes to propagandistic prognostications about the imminence of an Iranian bomb, they never really are.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ever-Closing Windows and Biden Time on Iran at AIPAC

(Susan Walsh/AP)

After a brief respite from incessant warmongering nonsense following the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012, it appears old rhetorical devices have reemerged. With a vengeance.

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing his minions at AIPAC via video chat on March 4, spent a bunch of his time saying supposedly scary things about "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons" and dismissing negotiations.

"I have to tell you the truth," he told the fawning crowd. "Diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores all these offers. It is running out the clock." He continued:
Iran enriches more and more uranium. It installs faster and faster centrifuges. It's still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But Iran is getting closer to that line, and it's putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.
Netanyahu deliberately ignored the fact that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium remains far from weapons-grade and that Iran has, for over a year now, been systematically converting much of its 19.75% enriched stock to fuel plates that precludes the possibility of being diverted to military purposes.

Of course, the fact that Iran has an inalienable legal right to a fully-functioning nuclear energy program - including the indigenous mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle - was not addressed at all. For Netanyahu and his acolytes, any Iranian nuclear program is synonymous with a weapons program - and not only that, but a weapons program designed to "exterminate" Israel's "Jewish people." Facts remain irrelevant. Hasbara reigns.

Netanyahu once again demonstrated his complete disregard for the tenets of the United Nations Charter by calling for Iran to be explicitly threatened with a military attack if it doesn't comply with absurd Israeli demands. He insisted "with the clarity of my brain" (whatever that means) that "words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail."

Addressing the same audience, Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at length about "Iran’s dangerous nuclear weapons program," which the U.S. intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed doesn't exist.

The consensus view of all 16 American intelligence agencies has maintained since 2007 that Iran ceased whatever research into nuclear weaponization it may have conducted by 2003, and has never resumed that work. The NIE has been consistently reaffirmed ever since (in 2009, 2010, and again in 2011).

In early 2012, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, stated in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We do not know…if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons." The same day, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ronald Burgess said that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict” and maintained that Iran’s military doctrine is defensive in nature and designed only for deterrence.

Clapper repeated this conclusion verbatim just last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Moreover, the IAEA itself continually confirms that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and has stated it has "no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons program."(emphasis added)

Undeterred by facts or reason, Biden continued to tell the AIPAC fanatics that "Iraq's [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners -- and to the United States. And it would trigger an arms race -- a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable."  Biden made sure to repeat the mantra that "all options, including military force, are on the table" when it comes to Iran.

First, Biden's Iraq/Iran slip wasn't merely Freudian. Since the Iraq script from a decade ago is nearly identical to the Iran script now, it's unsurprising that Biden can't keep his manufactured threats straight.  One need only recall Biden's claims on Meet The Press in August 2002 that Saddam Hussein constituted "a long term threat and a short term threat to our national security" and "an extreme danger to the world." Consequently, said Biden, "We have no choice but to eliminate the threat."

Years later, on the same program, Biden stood by his statements.  When asked by Tim Russert about weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist, Biden blithely insisted that "everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued—they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued. They looked at them and catalogued. What he did with them, who knows?"

Biden was lying, of course.

International weapons inspectors had been perfectly clear about what "he did with them."  After losing the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq's weapons programs were subject to intrusive inspections and international sanctions. An IAEA report from 1995 indicated that "all nuclear weapons related activities had effectively ceased" in January 1991, "at the onset of the attack on Iraq by the coalition forces." By 1998, the IAEA concluded that “there is no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-useable nuclear material."  The next year, the UN Security Council affirmed that UN weapons inspectors "have been effective in uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes," adding, "The bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."

In 2000, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter explained that "as early as 1997" it was possible "to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed. Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent…and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring. The same was true of Iraq’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities."

In July 2002, as calls for war grew louder, Ritter wrote in the Boston Globe that "the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness - or inability - to provide such evidence."

When, days later, then Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden convened hearings to assess the threat posed by Iraq and implications of a potential U.S.-led attack, Ritter called the hearings a "sham" and said the Delaware Senator and "most of the Congressional leadership have pre-ordained a conclusion that seeks to remove Saddam Hussein from power regardless of the facts, and are using these hearings to provide political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq."

A few months later, in September 2002, Ritter wrote in the Baltimore Sun, "From 1991 to 1998, UN weapons inspectors, among whom I played an integral part, were able to verifiably ascertain a 90 percent to 95 percent level of disarmament inside Iraq. This included all of the production facilities involved with WMD, together with their associated production equipment and the great majority of what was produced by these facilities."

That same month, Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay reported that "there is no new intelligence that indicates the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs, said a US intelligence official who argues that Cheney's and Rumsfeld's focus on Iraq is hurting the hunt for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorist network."

In mid-January 2003, the Associated Press reported, "In almost two months of surprise visits across Iraq, U.N. arms monitors have inspected 13 sites identified by U.S. and British intelligence agencies as major 'facilities of concern,' and reported no signs of revived weapons building...The review of intelligence reports and U.N. records underlines chief inspector Hans Blix's statement that the international experts have uncovered no 'smoking guns' in Iraq in almost 400 inspections since late November."

On February 24, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, an article in Newsweek revealed that "Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them."

By the time of Biden's appearance on Meet The Press, the CIA had already published its conclusions that Saddam Hussein had "ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war."  The Iraq Survey Group had "found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program." This information was readily available on the CIA's own website. Similarly, it had already been made clear that the CIA knew there was nothing to find in the first place.

Such is Joe Biden's penchant for telling the truth.  Returning to his comments at AIPAC, Biden's recent fear-mongering hypotheticals about Iran are also wrong.

Beyond being obvious that Iran poses literally no threat to the United States, numerous Israeli military and intelligence officials openly reject the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran would "present an existential threat to Israel." Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy recently told the UK Zionist Federation that Israel's existence "is not in danger and shouldn't be questioned."

Furthermore, Biden's axiomatic contention that an Iranian nuclear bomb would spark a regional arms race has also been rejected for years by less hysterical analysts. In fact, Biden made his comments soon after the publication of a new report by the Center for a New American Security which judged the scenario extremely unlikely.

For obvious reasons, Biden claimed that the United States is "not looking for war" and prefers "a diplomatic solution" to the impasse over Iranian nuclear program.  Still, he said, the "window is closing" for a negotiated outcome, after which military action would be taken.

This formulation has been echoed by senior Obama officials of late, including both Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The window has apparently been closing for some time now and yet, incredibly, Iran never gets any closer to actually having the nuclear weapon it isn't building and that it constantly insists it doesn't want.

In early June 2009, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak privately told a visiting Congressional delegation in Tel Aviv that there was an estimated "window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable."  A month later, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen warned that the "window is closing" on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He declared that Iran was only one to three years away from successfully building a nuclear weapon and "is very focused on developing this capability."

With history repeating itself (remember in early 2001 when the Department of Defense reported, "Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild the infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon"?), it remains crucial to assess facts rather than blindly accept propaganda, to recall the lessons of the past in order to avoid future blunders and to know - unequivocally - that the implications and consequences of the pathological Iraqization of Iran inevitably lead to the commission of murderous war crimes, not merely Freudian slips.


Friday, March 15, 2013

U.S. Intel Chief Says Iran Isn't Building Nukes.
Is Anybody Listening?

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday March 12, 2013, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reaffirmed what the U.S. intelligence community has been saying for years: Iran has no nuclear weapons program, is not building a nuclear weapon and has not even made a decision to do so.

The annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” which compiles the collective conclusions of all American intelligence agencies, has long held that Iran maintains defensive capabilities and has a military doctrine of deterrence and retaliation, but is not an aggressive state actor and has no intention of beginning a conflict, let alone triggering a nuclear apocalypse.

While the U.S. intelligence community assumes that Iran already has the technical capability to produce nuclear weapons, “should a decision be made to do so,” Clapper’s report states (as it has for years now), “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Were this decision ever to be made, Iran wouldn't even be able to secretly start building a nuclear bomb. “[W]e assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU [weapons-grade uranium] before this activity is discovered,” Clapper told Congress.

Even Clapper, who is no stranger to alarmism, acknowledges that “Iran prefers to avoid direct confrontation with the United States” and would only act defensively “in response to perceived offenses.” Iran’s “decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach” based on considerations of “security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment,” Clapper said, thereby dismissing allegations that the Islamic Republic is an irrational martyr state.

Furthermore, speaking at a national security conference in Herzliya on Thursday, Israel’s own military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi concurred with Clapper’s assessment. While sure to continue advancing its nuclear program in the coming year, he said, Iran has not actually decided to build a bomb.

Such findings are wholly consistent with past assessments.

In April 2010, Defense Intelligence Agency director Ronald Burgess told the Senate Committee on Armed Services, “Iran’s military strategy is designed to defend against external threats, particularly from the United States and Israel” and “to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” The following year, he explained that “Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack,” and reiterated this conclusion in early 2012.

With these findings in mind – assessed and reaffirmed as they are year after year – it is alarming indeed that journalists, pundits, establishment think tank analysts, and a wide array of government officials continue to parrot the claim that Iran is “the world’s most dangerous state” and “one of the gravest threats to international security.”

Such hysteria and fear-mongering, as always, is simply not borne out by the facts.


Originally posted at Muftah.



April 18, 2013 - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and reiterated the same assessment regarding Iran as was delivered in March 2013.

The exact same statements - verbatim - were included in Clapper's unclassified report, including the assessment that "Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

Of course, as Clapper notes, Iran's ability to potentially manufacture the components is inherent to its advanced nuclear infrastructure and is not an indication of an active nuclear weapons program, which all U.S. intelligence agencies agree Iran does not have.

As such, Clapper told the Senate Committee, "Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so."

In his testimony, Clapper stated that, were the decision to weaponize its nuclear energy program to be made by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran could theoretically reach a "breakout" point within "months, not years."  His report repeats the assessment, though, that "[d]espite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered."

Again, undermining the bogus claims that Iran is an irrational and reckless actor, Clapper maintained the judgment that "Iran's nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach," balancing its own domestic interests with "the international political and security environment."  Iran also has a defensive - not aggressive - military posture, one based on "its strategy to deter - and if necessary retaliate 
against - forces in the region, including US forces" were an attack on Iran to occur.


Friday, March 8, 2013

From Iraq to Iran: Memories Ignored & Lessons Unlearned

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
“We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction.”

- Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard, March 17, 2003

“Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”
- Joe Wilson, The New York Times, July 6, 2003

On October 12, 2002, one day after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to authorize the Bush Administration’s use of military force against Iraq, the Iraqi government sent a letter to officials overseeing the U.N. weapons inspection programs. The Iraqis reiterated their pledge to allow inspectors to operate in the country “as soon as possible,” as long as the inspectors abided by the United Nations’ own terms of agreement. The letter did not address specific demands that Iraq provide unrestricted access to weapons sites.

“This is more of the same games they have been playing for the past 10 years,” a senior White House official said. “They continue to play games of denial and deception.”

Mohammed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, then the respective heads of the IAEA and UNMOVIC - the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission - noted Iraq’s agreement to provide “immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access” to its safeguarded sites, including access to Iraqi officials and scientists.

The Iraqis had also given their approval for U.N. surveillance flights over the country. Iraqi officials made it clear, however, that they could not guarantee the safety of these flyovers unless the joint US/UK administered no-fly zones over Iraq were cancelled.

The United States immediately dismissed the request. “Obviously the Iraqis want to delay and deceive,” a U.S. official said.

Shortly thereafter, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte accused Iraq of failing to fulfilling its international "obligations," lambasted Iraq's "practice of omissions, evasions and untruths," and referred to 12,000 pages of documentation showing a lack of weapons of mass destruction as "one more act of deception in a history of lies." He condemned the Iraqi government for choosing "deception and concealment over full disclosure."

When Hans Blix told reporters in early January 2003 that inspectors had been "covering the country in ever wider sweeps" for months but "haven't found any smoking guns." Undeterred, Negroponte responded, "There is still no evidence that Iraq has fundamentally changed its approach from one of deceit to a genuine attempt to be forthcoming."

Fast forward to March 6, 2013. U.S. envoy to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus accused Iran of a "commitment to deception, defiance, and delay" in response to Iranian attempts to address concerns about alleged past research and willingness to provide the IAEA with access to a military facility not legally accessible to the organization.

The same day, in a statement to the United Nation Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called the Iranian nuclear issue "one of gravest threats to international security" and claimed that Iran is "reject[ing] its international obligations." Rice urged the Security Council to "clarify for Iran the consequences of its actions and show Iran the benefits of choosing cooperation over provocation."

The parallels to Iraq 2003 are undeniable.

While the most recent round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 in Kazakhstan in February seemed positive, with Iranian officials calling the talks a “turning point” based on a "more realistic" approach that yielded "positive results,"  the honeymoon was short-lived.  Almost immediately after the talks, U.S. and Israeli officials resorted to the bellicose rhetoric that had subsided substantially following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s absurd bomb chart charade at the United Nations General Assembly last September.

Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu himself led the charge, saying on February 27 that economic warfare waged against Iran had not yet produced his desired result and more explicit threats of aggression must be made. Just as confident about Iran’s supposed pursuit of atomic weapons now as he was about Iraq ten years ago, Netanyahu insisted, "I believe it is incumbent upon the international community to intensify the sanctions and clarify that if Iran continues its program, there will be military sanctions."

Israeli media claimed that President Obama would use his upcoming trip to Israel to “discuss a military strike on Iran” and “will reportedly work out the details for a possible assault” with the Israeli leadership, adding that Obama will tell Netanyahu that a “window of opportunity” for an attack on Iran will open in June.

In a speech before the powerful pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, Vice President Joe Biden insisted that “President Obama is not bluffing” in threatening military action against Iran. Meanwhile, U.S. Senators have recently put forward a bill pledging American “diplomatic, military, and economic support” for any potential Israeli attack on Iran.

The P5+1 called the recent talks with Iran "useful" and stated its commitment "to carry on a constructive diplomatic process, which will be pursued actively in the months ahead on the basis of reciprocity and step-by-step approach." However, Lindsey Graham, one of the bill's leading champions, has his own idea of what step-by-step approach should entail, explaining on March 5, “You have to build a case: First, you rule out containment, then pledge support to Israel, and if that doesn't work, tell Obama, 'Mr. President, here's authorization.'"

The same day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Saudi Arabia on his first diplomatic tour, warned that the “window of opportunity” for a diplomatic solution to the current impasse over Iran's nuclear program “cannot by definition remain open indefinitely,” adding that “talks cannot become an instrument for delay that will make the situation more dangerous.”

“Lines have been drawn before and they’ve been passed,” Kerry told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz in Qatar the next day. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel echoed these sentiments during a 2-hour meeting with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak. “The United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said during a press conference.

Also on Tuesday, General James Mattis, outgoing chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing he believed the American strategy of crippling sanctions and coercive diplomacy on Iran had been ineffective, stating that “Iran remains the single-most significant regional threat to stability and prosperity.” He also condemned the Iranian government’s “reckless behavior and bellicose rhetoric,” despite the fact that only the United States and its allies - not Iran - are threatening war, and said there might still be time to bring Iran both "to its senses" and "to its knees."

"I think we have to continue sanctions, but have other options ready," Mattis said, adding that a military strike was just "one of the options that I have to have prepared for the president."

"I'm just paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly," he conceded.

Dim view or not, Mattis has presided over the largest build-up of American military power in the Persian Gulf since March 2003. TIME magazine reports:
In April [2012], the Air Force deployed a squadron of F-22 stealth fighters to a base in the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. Navy has doubled the number of its minesweeping ships from four to eight and of its patrol boats from five to 10 in the past two years. It has deployed combat search-and-rescue helicopters, unmanned minesweeping submarines and high-tech surveillance systems. Most threatening, it dispatched to the Persian Gulf a second aircraft-carrier battle group that had been destined for the Pacific.
The U.S. is also building up other forces in the region. In early 2012, it expanded a military base in Kuwait, stationing two Army infantry brigades, or 15,000 troops, there. That is still a token force, but the U.S. is pre-positioning covert and special-operations capabilities and beefing up facility defenses. It has been operating a drone base out of Saudi Arabia. In July 2012, it deployed the U.S.S. Ponce, a converted transport ship that can serve as a floating special-operations base, complete with helicopter pads and several hundred bunk beds. It has delivered long-range X-band missile-defense radars to Israel and Turkey and has reached an agreement with Qatar to deploy a system there too. The U.S. has reportedly asked the U.K. for access to bases on Cyprus, Diego Garcia and Ascension Island for use in an attack on Iran.
In late October 2002, after a similarly massive build-up of American troops, warships and weaponry in the region, U.S. Army Secretary Thomas E. White declared, "The Army's ready. That's our job, to be ready. And the Army's ready."

With the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq looming, a wealth of reflective analyses has emerged about the wisdom (or sheer madness and criminality) of that tragic act, sold to the American public through the constant repetition of lies and fear mongering.

Recalling the run up to the Iraq invasion, in late February 2013, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson wrote in The Guardian:
For nearly a year prior to the invasion, President Bush and his administration peppered the airwaves with serious accusations against Saddam Hussein, including claims of aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium, and of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa. The intelligence supporting the claims was either not believed or was highly disputed by the experts. But that did not stop senior government officials from repeating them incessantly; nor did it prevent the powerful neoconservative ideologues who were the war's most fervent supporters from parroting them with menacingly jingoistic passion. 
The tactics of collective punishment and threats of military action now leveled against Iran are the same as they were ten years ago against Iraq. Every week, the mainstream media peddles new stories of supposedly nefarious Iranian acts, only to be debunked and discredited after these narratives have irreversibly gained traction.

As former White House spokesman Scott McClellan wrote in his 2008 memoir, “In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White House were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage.” He added that “deception” served to “cloud the public’s ability to see larger, underlying important truths that are critical to understand in order to avoid the same problems in the future.”

“Memories of the failure and tragic mistakes in Iraq are not taken sufficiently seriously,” Hans Blix recently told a group of reporters in Dubai. “In the case of Iraq, there was an attempt made by some states to eradicate weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, and today there is talk of going [to] Iran to eradicate intentions that may not exist. I hope that will not happen,” he said.

Blix, who is also a former Director General of the IAEA, further explained, “Iran has not violated NPT and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.”

U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates, as well as IAEA reports, have routinely reaffirmed such an assessment.

Back in September 2003, as it became ever more clear that Iraq had hidden no weapons of mass destruction, Blix condemned the United States and Britain for exploiting "the culture of spin, the culture of hyping" in order to sell their war. "They took away the question marks and put in exclamation points instead," he said the following year.

With the recent clamor of rattling sabers by the same cast of characters a decade after the illegal invasion of Iraq, it seems undeniable that those who enabled war crimes in Iraq are eager to repeat themselves.


A shorter version of this article was originally posted at Muftah.